Hydrangea was coming over to swim today, and I was extremely nervous. We’ve only known each other in a professional environment, and I was afraid she wouldn’t like me outside of it. I really wanted her to like me, she was Tulip’s only remaining family and I knew that I’d have to make her like me if Tulip was still alive.
She told me she was gonna be here at ten, and it was now ten-thirty. I was worried she wouldn’t show, and I really hoped that wasn’t the case. It was so embarrassing to sit there with my friend and brother, waiting for someone who might not even show, so I sent them out to the pool early.
Finally after fifteen more minutes of waiting, the doorbell rang. I jumped off the couch to answer the door. Hydrangea stood on the front porch nervously, I’ve never seen her so vulnerable. It was strange.
“Hey Drea, come on in.” I invited her in, and I noticed she had her hair down. I’ve never seen her hair down. I had no idea it was so long.
“Thanks for inviting me over, you have such a nice house.” She looked around in awe. “Oh, and I’m sorry I’m so late, my roommate needed a ride to work.”
“It’s no problem, now c’mon, let’s go swim.” We laughed and I lead her outside.
“Wow, you’re backyard is huge!” She exclaimed as she ran outside. I really liked this side of her. I hoped I could see it more often.
“Yea, it’s a lot bigger than our old backyard. I love it.” I smiled.
“Hey Drea, River, come on in.” Maple called from the pool.
“Race ya.” Drea yelled and took off running. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
She took the slide and I took the diving board and on the count of three we went into the pool.
When I surfaced, Carrot was getting out of the pool. “Getting out already?”
“You know I’m not a fan of water.” He mumbled, and headed inside.
“You better come back out.” I yelled after him. He grunted and waved me off, making everyone laugh.
“You’re such an older brother.” Hydrangea splashed me. I suddenly remembered my beach date with Tulip the day before she died, and how we had a splashing fight in the water that day.
“Um hey, how about we have a breath holding contest?” I suggested, trying to distract myself.
“Sure, you in Maple?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
Maple offered to be the judge, but I think he was too involved in his romance novel to care. I didn’t mind though, I just wanted to get my mind off Tulip.
“Hell yea!” I yelled when I found out I won.
“Ugh, you suck.” Drea joked.
“Hey, wanna relax on some rafts? We’ve got a few more if you want one.”
“Sure, I’d love to.”
A few minutes later all three of us were relaxing on rafts.
“So, Maple whatcha reading?” Hydrangea asked, and he laughed.
“Don’t think you’d be interested, it’s a homoerotic novel.” He laughed, and she scrunched her face in horror.
“You’re right, not my thing.”
Just then, Carrot came back outside.
“Hey, can you get me a soda too?” I asked.
“Get it yourself, jerk.” He joked.
“Why do you guys have a vending machine in your backyard?” Drea wondered aloud.
“My dad knows a lot of shady guys.” He simply stated before taking a seat on one of the law chairs.
“Hey River, where’s your bathroom?” Drea jumped off her raft and into the pool.
“It’s the door right off the kitchen, it’s impossible to miss.” I explained, and soon she was gone leaving just us guys. I slid off my raft and swam up next to Maple.
“You so like her.” He stated, never even looking up from his book.
“Nonsense, she’s just a friend.”
“I can tell you like her dude, and honestly I think you’d make a great match.”
“No, I think you’re wrong, bro.” I grumbled, before swimming away and climbing out of the pool.
There was no way I could like her, she’s my deceased girlfriend’s sister. I’d be a terrible person if I dated her, it’d be like spitting on Tulip’s grave. I could never do that to her, no matter how cute her sister looked in that swimsuit.
“Hey, mind if I join you?” Hydrangea’s voice broke through my thoughts of her and Tulip.
“Yea, take a seat.” I offered.
“Oh, by the way, I think the longer hair suits you quite well.” She told me as she got comfortable in the chair.
“Thanks, I just kinda stopped getting it cut. I was surprised how badass it made me look.” I joked, making her laugh.
“You do look pretty badass.”
“Hey guys, I’m starting the bonfire.” Carrot called out to no one in particular.
“Don’t burn yourself this time, I don’t wanna take you to the hospital again.” Maple shouted from the pool.
“What?” Hydrangea asked, half laughing.
“Yea, this idiot managed to light his shorts on fire. He was smart enough to jump in the pool, though he did get pretty burned.” I explained, remembering the incident that occurred only a month ago.
“Hey, it was an accident.” Carrot grunted.
“Doesn’t make it any less funny.” Maple remarked.
“Come on Carrot, its a hot tub, it’s not like you’re gonna drown in it.” Maple teased.
“People have drowned in them before.” He replied nervously. Maple rolled his eyes.
“Yea, unsupervised children. You’re an adult, surrounded by other adults. We’re not gonna let you drown.”
“Fine.” He gave up and climbed into the hot tub.
“So Maple, how have you been? We haven’t talked in so long.” Drea asked him.
“I’m doing ok, I’ve got a good job, some good friends,” He said as he punched Carrot on the shoulder. “And an awesome house. I think I’m doing pretty good. How about you?”
“I’m doing fine.” She sighed. “So, are you still single?”
“Yea, but I’ve got my eye on someone.” He smirked.
“Oh really? Who?”
“It’s a secret.” Maple winked at her and sunk further into the hot tub.
“This thing isn’t that bad.” My half-brother stated.
“Yea man, water isn’t evil” I splashed him, and he frowned.
“You suck.” He crossed his arms and I shrugged. I really loved messing with him.
“Do you guys do this often?” Drea asked.
“Maple and I use it almost every night, it’s a life saver after a stressful day at work.”
“Yea, I bet.”
“I think this would stress me out more.” Carrot remarked. “I think I’m gonna go inside.”
“You sure you don’t wanna stay?” Maple asked, and Carrot shook his head.
“I’d rather be playing video games.”
“You know what, that sounds like a great idea.” He gave me a knowing smile, and I knew exactly what he was thinking. He wanted me to make a move on Drea. Not gonna happen, sorry.
“Don’t have too much fun without me.” He winked at me, making me blush. I glanced over at Drea to see if she understood what was happening, but she was too busy looking at the stars.
I waited until Maple was inside before I said anything else. “Having fun?”
“Lots. You guys have such a cool place.” She beamed.
“Thanks, the hot tub was my idea.” I bragged, and she giggled.
“It was a pretty great idea.”
“You’ve really changed.” She stated.
“So have you.”
“Yea, I used to me pretty uptight. But after losing Tulip, I decided that wouldn’t get me anywhere in life. It took me a while to completely let loose, but now that I have I don’t regret it. I’m the happiest I’ve been since before the incident.” She said. This was the third time I’ve heard someone mention the incident, and I was curious to know what happened. So I asked.
“It’s not something I can tell just anyone. If you really wanna know, you can meet me at HQ tomorrow at nine o-clock.”
“I thought you didn’t do detective work anymore?”
“Will you be there?: She asked hopefully.
“Yea, I don’t see why not.”
“Awesome.” She smiled, and started to get up. “I should get going.”
“Hey, do you wanna dry off by the bonfire for a little while?”
“You know it’s not your fault, right?” Drea whispered, her voice barely audible over the crackling of the fire.
“I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.” I responded, making her sigh.
“I used to think the same thing. But we can’t control what others do. How were we supposed to know what Clover would do? There’s no way we could’ve known, and there’s nothing we could’ve done. Things like this can only be blamed on the person who actually did the murdering. Not the people around the victim. It took me a while to realize this, and I want you to realize it too.” She sighed.
“Well at least the person the blame for this is in jail for the rest of her life.” I couldn’t even say her name aloud, it hurt too much.
“Yea. River, I want you to think about what I said, okay?” I nodded. “Good, now walk me to my car?”
I walked her up to the front to say goodbye, when she pulled me into a hug. “Thank you, I really needed this.” She whispered into my shoulder.
“Anytime Drea, anytime.” I rubbed her back soothingly.
“So I’ll see you tomorrow?” She asked.
“Yea.” I whispered.
“Good. Night River.” She pulled away from our hug and headed off to her car.
The next morning I arrived at HQ at nine o-clock sharp. As usual, my sister was the only one in the waiting room.
“Hey Fern, is Hydrangea in today? She told me to meet her here today.” I told her as I approached the counter.
“Yea, she’s here. Follow me.” She walked around the counter and ran into the hallway before I could even move.
She entered the door next to Drea’s old office. I’ve never been in that room before, I always assumed it was empty. I guess not.
Fern was just taking a seat when I entered the room. The room had a long table in it, kinda like the one in the backroom. The table was covered in books and it smelled like the library. I took a look around the room, noticing the people sitting at the table.
“What’s going on?” I asked. I thought it was just gonna be Drea and I.
“Oh hey River, glad you could make it. Take a seat.” Drea said.
I took a seat without looking at anyone. I felt oddly out of place even though these people were some of my closest friends.
Drea was still standing there, just staring at an old map on the wall. Everyone else was completely silent, and even though I had a billion questions, I didn’t want to be the one to break the silence. Thankfully I didn’t have too.
“I know you’re confused River. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble or anything. I’ll explain everything when our last member gets here.” Drea explained.
As if on cue, the door swung open, causing everyone in the room to look up.
“Hey, so sorry I’m late.” The man said. It took me a few seconds, but then I recognized him.
My psycho ex-girlfriend’s father was here.